How Will Coronavirus Impact China’s Africa Policy?

An economy in decline and foreign policy on hold. This is an abstract of what China is currently experiencing. Life hasn’t been easy for Xi Jinping and his country as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc across the world. Being the epicenter of the virus, China has a lot to look forward to and it must answer many questions and highlight essential plans in the upcoming period. This troubled time for China is becoming worse by the day. Although the number of coronavirus cases have dropped significantly, there are many problems which continue to persist. For one thing, huge chunk of countries have stopped flights to China, putting restrictions on Chinese citizens entering their countries.

Coronavirus is Hitting International Business Hard in China

The closure of businesses ordered by the government has seen a rapid decline in business activity. February was a month to forget for China as it saw a sharp decline in economic activity, the first quarter’s economic growth could be more than crippling. Many global giants which are based in China are saying it might take months to recover from the drastic situation. IPhone manufacturer Foxconn also says that production would start by the end of March. While the economic activity within China is crawling at a turtle’s pace, the response from the international community has also been devastating.

How Has the Coronavirus Impacted Chinese Business?

The major impact of the coronavirus is threatening international partners and projects vested in their countries. Low production activity at home has not only driven away potential businesses but has also put the ones currently in operation in a dilemma. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is one particular project which is causing major headaches for Xi Jinping and his cabinet. Relations with African states is another. China’s growing links with Africa have been severely hit by the coronavirus as it has now been detected in a few countries across the continent.

China’s policy for Africa is one which is very detailed and one which is extremely important. China’s links with Africa are immense. The Chinese have invested in a multitude of infrastructure, social and cultural projects. The uncertainty as to what will happen next has put banks, the major source of financing for these projects in a troublesome situation as they now assess whether further investment would result in positive growth or major slumps. African equities, assets and currencies will see a major shake-up during this period.

China’s Ventures in Africa

Chinese infrastructure projects in Africa will face disruptions and delays as many precautionary measures and guidelines must be taken and followed before Chinese workers will be allowed to return to Africa. The coronavirus has attacked the entire supply chain, a virus so deadly, it’s capable of ruining years of hard work. Transportation hubs in China are currently unable to operate at full capacity, making the sourcing of key components, inputs and equipment a daunting task. China is a key player when it comes to the African market. Almost two-thirds of African countries import their goods from China. In 2019, China’s exports to Africa expanded by 7.2% year-on year. South Africa and Nigeria are expected to be worst-hit.

The coronavirus — although is a very dangerous start to the new year — is less likely to cause any major disruptions in China’s policy towards the continent. China has deep-rooted interest in Africa and countries are currently investing in the infrastructure that the Chinese have developed. At this point in time Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have confirmed cases in the continent. China’s expansion in the continent is not just limited to these countries. Apart from these projects, China’s policy towards Africa will also focus on healthcare since the depleting healthcare infrastructure will no longer be able to treat and cure patients if the outbreak worsens. Also one must note that the spread of ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo poses another obstacle in terms of health in the region.

China’s Role in Africa’s Future Success

China’s policy during this outbreak as stated by officials will be to make sure existing business structures operate efficiently so as to not lose years of financial gains. Secondly, Chinese officials will also be assisting in curing those who have been affected and prevent the further spread of the virus through an increase in humanitarian efforts. China has the finances and the means to disperse its policies in one way or the other. China is now dispatching health workers to the continent to assist in building testing labs which will have the means to counter the virus.

Chinese assistance to the continent is immense considering the positive relations between the two sides. Although at this given time, the simultaneous activity may be running at a slow rate, it will survive the scare that it’s currently witnessing. Be it finance, healthcare or the distribution of essential services, China’s foreign policy towards the continent will remain the same — the only problem will be the rate at which work progresses.